AMERICA'S FRESHMAN

TNH talks with UNH’s reluctant internet sensation

By Joel Kost
On February 20, 2012

Chances are you've seen or heard of UNH's latest trend: the UNH Memes Facebook page. The Internet sensation, which has generated over 3,300 "likes" since its creation on Feb. 10, is the campus's hub for posting hundreds of memes that relate to the university.

One of the more commonly used photos on the memes page is a picture of a college student wearing a UNH sweatshirt with headphones and a cell phone.

The individual in this photo is Griffin Kiritsy, a senior English major at the University of New Hampshire. The picture of him that is now being used across the country was actually taken four years ago when he was a freshman.

Kiritsy was interviewed and photographed for an article in Reader's Digest about technology affecting people's everyday lives. It was featured in both the print and online version of the magazine.

The magazine sent a photographer to Durham who called him an hour before they met up to let him know to wear a UNH shirt. Kiritsy, who hadn't been in school for more than two months, didn't own one. So he turned to his sister, a student at the time. All she owned was a sweatshirt that read "UNH field hockey."

So in the picture, he placed his right arm over the words to try to prevent them from being seen.

"I didn't really want my picture taken," Kiritsy said. "It was a Wednesday afternoon and there were literally hundreds of people walking around. It went in the magazine and I didn't think anything of it. It basically just stayed there for three years."

It wasn't until last summer that Kiritsy's image was discovered on the Internet and posted on quickmeme.com, a website used for posting memes.

"My brother's friend from California noticed it first," Kiritsy said.  "Last summer it was on websites like Chive and Funny or Die.  It was popular for a while, but then it died off for a semester."

As defined by dictionary.com, a meme is a term coined in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. It is "an idea or element of social behavior passed on through generations in a culture, especially by imitation."

In today's society a meme is a term used in popular culture to describe a picture or video that circulates through the Internet. Common memes include Success Kid, Philosoraptor and Insanity Wolf.

As it turns out, the caption used for the online photograph in the Reader's Digest article was "college freshman." Kiritsy believes that someone was simply trying to make a college-themed meme and when they searched for college freshman his image showed up.

Dubbed the College Freshman, Kiritsy's meme was originally used to describe what a "typical freshman" would do, such as go home on weekends and run to class.

"The worst part is that 90 percent of those memes don't apply to me," Kiritsy said. "I never ran to class."

After losing its popularity for a few months, the meme suddenly became viral on the Internet, reaching not only the UNH campus but also several others, such as Purdue University.

Instead of just poking fun at freshmen, the meme now covers popular topics at UNH – some of which include long lines at Holloway Commons and different majors.

"It's a weird experience," Kiritsy said. "At first it wasn't a big deal, but now people are coming up to me and are like, ‘hey, you're that guy.' It's really awkward."

The UNH meme has recently spanned over many other images. Many popular photos include still shots from films such as Lord of the Rings, Inception, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But what exactly makes these UNH memes so popular? Both Kiritsy and Benjie Chiampa, a mechanical engineering major, agree that the memes are something all students can relate to.

"We can all relate to a hefty majority of the memes, like the madness that goes on at HoCo at 12:30, or the terror of just leaning back in a dorm room chair," Chiampa said. "The memes page is great way to show what the students really feel about life at UNH, whether it be positive or negative."

While the UNH Memes Facebook page has been receiving immense popularity, many students question whether or not the trend will last. UNH student Margaret Gynan believes that the memes will shortly die out.

Chiampa, however, is hopeful that the memes will always have a topic to relate to.

"The trend of the memes might die down for a little bit, but I think that they will still be a popular thing," Chiampa said. "As long as something funny, unfair or just common activities happen at UNH, there will be someone to make a meme about it."

Despite the unwanted attention on the streets, Kiritsy finds the popularity of his picture amusing.

"I think it's hilarious," Kiritsy said. "There are a million images of college freshmen online, and they picked me."


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